The Stranded Whale

Stranded Whale51zH+DEwRZL__SY444_BO1,204,203,200_The Stranded Whale

Jane Yolen, Author

Melanie Cataldo, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, July 16, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 5-9

Themes: Whales, Nature, Death, Anger, Grief

Opening:We were walking home from school, hurrying along the top of the dunes because Ma always hates when we’re late for supper.”

Synopsis: While walking home from school along the dunes in Maine, Sally and her brothers spot an enormous whale stranded on the beach. The siblings take off their sweaters, dip them into the cold briny water and rush back to wet down the whale. Realizing they need more help, Josh runs for help and returns with many people carrying buckets. The Coast Guard arrives and begins to help. But the tide is going out quickly and the whale is just too big. Time is running out.

Why I like this book:

  • Jane Yolen has written a touching story that will tug at your heart. The story is set in 1971 and it reminds me of lengthier picture books written at that time. Yolen carefully chooses her language. Her text is rich, lyrical and carries you like a poem. Melanie Cataldo’s uses muted tones in her oil and pencil illustrations. They contribute to the emotion and vulnerability of the story.
  • Because it is 1971, the three siblings don’t have modern cell phones to call for help. This adds to the tension because so much time is lost. Sally and her brothers have to rely upon their own resources to help the whale. Josh has to run a mile to find an emergency telephone. It takes a while before the town people and Coast Guard arrive with buckets to wet down the whale. They all try to push the whale back into the ebbing sea. There are no fire hoses or lifts. This is a nice contrast/comparison story for readers.
  • The story is narrated by Sally, who is brave and strong. While Josh is sad about the situation, Sally is mad at everything. She’s mad at the ocean for deserting the whale. She’s mad that they didn’t have a boat and long ropes to pull it into the sea. Sally is also compassionate and looks deeply into the whales eye and sees a tear. She continues wetting down the whale “one sweater, two sweaters at a time.” She tells the whale it is “beautiful and strong, how much she would miss it, whatever happened next.”
  • The ending is realistic. (Spoiler alert) Despite their efforts to rescue the whale, Sally and her brothers learn that not all living creatures can be saved. This is an important truth for children.

Resources: Yolen has an Author’s Note at the end. She talks about why she chose the setting and time frame. She also gives a lot information about how many whales are found on beaches annually and the many reasons for why they beach. There are many good discussion points for parents/teachers and children in this story.  Today is Endangered Species Day.  Make sure you check out the Endangered Species Coalition website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

36 thoughts on “The Stranded Whale

    • Yes, this takes us back (even 20 yrs ago) when we relied on telephones and didn’t have cell phones to call for help. But, I really enjoyed Jane’s storytelling – such a master with words and images. Thanks for the RT.

  1. Whales are creatures very dear to my heart. I must read this book — and although I always yearn for a happy ending, I’m grateful that Jane was realistic in her portrayal. I can imagine this book leads to many heartfelt discussions within families. Thank you for sharing it with us, Pat.

    • Yes, I have an affinity for whales too. I love stories and movies about them. This book will lead to important discussions between parent and child. I went on a whale-watching trip years ago and didn’t see one. So disappointing. Thank you for stopping.

  2. Pingback: The Stranded Whale — Children’s Books Heal – Jasper Lynn

  3. This sounds incredibly powerful and moving. And I like that the ending is realistic and that we see the kids feeling, naturally enough, anger and sadness. I’ll look for this one. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I think it’s important for children to read books that touch on hard issues like death. This sounds like a wonderful powerful and moving book. Will look for it at the library. Great review, Pat.

  5. Excellent idea for a book. The cover is touching. Children and adults will love this book. It will create much discussion I am sure.

  6. Definitely on the same wavelength for these reviews, Pat. These would be great companion texts as in one the whale is saved and in the other, sadly not. This gentle reality is important for young children.

  7. This is very moving. Love the cover. Hoping to pick it up at the library when I next visit. Whale beaching often happens here in New Zealand and sometimes does not end well. Great reality story.

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